OFFICIAL WELCOME FOR THE WORLD NETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPSPrime Minister
Christchurch Convention Centre
It is a great honour for me to officially open the 10th World Netball Championships.
This is a very fitting occasion to be held on Suffrage Day and I welcome all of the athletes, the coaches, the administrators and everyone here to New Zealand.
As many of you know this has been one of the most extraordinary weeks in the history of our young nation.
Never in our country's history have we had such an incredible window of opportunity to host so many of the world's most powerful leaders, and now the world's leading netball women.
Never before has New Zealand had such an opportunity to showcase our country to the world on such a grand scale, and to receive such accolades as those given by the President of the United States.
We hope you will find Canterbury and New Zealand equally stunning.
As a Cantabrian myself, I was delighted that Christchurch was able to enjoy the lion's share of the recent state visits, and now it will host this important event.
If you will allow me to show my bias for a moment, I think it would also be fitting for our national side to win on home soil, in what has already become a very memorable year for all New Zealanders.
I sincerely hope that all of our special overseas guests at this tournament will have an opportunity to partake of our stunning scenery and our unique culture while you are here.
I know your minds will be firmly fixed on the upcoming tournament, but I'm sure we can make room for some other activities as well.
In New Zealand today it is Suffrage Day.
It was 106 years ago today that New Zealand became the first country in the world to accord women the right to vote. Women were leaders in New Zealand and continue to be.
I would like to acknowledge the huge amount of work of those women who led the suffrage movement late last century.
I recall names like Kate Sheppard, Catherine Fulton, Mary Muller, Harriet Morison, Anna Stout and others including Mabel Howard - New Zealand's first woman Cabinet Minister in 1947.
Many of these women were Canterbury women, and some were born in the United Kingdom and may even have relatives here in this room.
I admire their strength and constitution, and their courage. These women changed the course of history, not only in New Zealand, but all over the world.
English born Kate Sheppard came to New Zealand with her mother and two sisters in 1868, and settled here in Christchurch.
She was an active member of the Trinity Congregational Church and became secretary of the Ladies Association, and a founding member of the New Zealand Women's Christian Temperance Union.
The union quickly realised that the right to vote was the key to promoting its proposed social and legislative reforms for women and children.
In 1887 Kate Sheppard began an effective campaign to win the vote for women. Supported by her younger sister, she petitioned Parliament no less than three times.
On the third occasion she was victorious. The Electoral Act 1893 was passed, making New Zealand the first country in the world to give women the right to vote.
Since that day women all over the world, have continued to battle for their rights in all areas of life, including sport.
Again, New Zealand has been a leader in this area.
The 19th century suffragist Jane Atkinson was a keen sportswoman who conquered Mt Egmont in 1855.
In 1910, Australian pioneer climber Freda Du Faur became the first woman to conquer Mt Cook.
In the 1890s New Zealand women were involved in cycling, golf, rowing, hockey, shooting and even established a rugby team.
But it wasn't until the early 1900s through to the 1910s that sport became more widely available to women in the form of organised netball and hockey.
Swimming, fencing, football and fishing were also added to the repertoire.
From the 1930s to the 1960s women athletes were hampered by dress standards.
Despite attempts to stigmatise sport as ungraceful and unfeminine, women have persisted down through the years. And today women's sport is big business.
It not only boasts some of the best sporting spectacles in the world, it also produces many positive role models who are an inspiration to young women (and men) the world over.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have come a long way in the last 106 years and this World Championship tournament is testament to that progress.
This tournament is a celebration of the liberation of women in sport. It is a celebration of excellence.
It is a celebration of youth and the promise of what can be achieved through sheer determination and hard work.
In New Zealand 250,000 people play netball making it the second widest played sport, second only to golf (450,000). You might have noticed New Zealanders love their sport.
I know some of the women here today have trained for months and even years for this one event. I know that a large portion of your lives have been focussed on the coming days.
But I also know that so much more will happen in your lives after this tournament is over and I implore you to continue to be role models for our young girls.
I urge you to continue to be an inspiration to young girls and to women throughout the world. We are in for a feast of netball over the next few days. We wish you every success.
I thank you again, for the opportunity to be here for this wonderful occasion. I wish all of the players well for this tournament.
It now gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to New Zealand. I trust you will enjoy your stay.